By Joseph Jubelag and Aaron Recuenco
ISULAN, SULTAN KUDARAT– Police authorities are eyeing extortion as a possible motive for the bomb attack on Wednesday at a local restaurant here which injured 18 people including six minors.
Isulan police chief PLt. Col. Junny Buenacosa said investigators are eyeing extortion as a possible motive into the blast triggered by an improvised explosive device at the entrance of Carlito’s Restaurant along the national highway in Barangay Kalawag, here past 3 p.m. Wednesday.
“It’s an isolated incident which was perpetrated by suspected extortionists,” Buenacosa said.
He said that prior to the attack the owner of the restaurant had earlier sought police assistance after he had received an extortion try through text messages supposedly coming from a local armed group.
He said the attack was meant to harass and scare the management of the restaurant.
Police investigators had already identified the suspects behind the attack and assured that a thorough probe will be conducted for the filing of criminal charges against the perpetrators.
Brig. Gen. Eliseo Rasco, director of the Central Mindanao regional police, said they have already identified at least one person with connections with the Dawlah Islamiyah as responsible for the bombing.
The group is reportedly headed by a certain Abu Toraife. Most of the members of the group are also members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter, a breakaway faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
“We are now preparing charges against him and his other accomplices,” said Rasco in a phone interview.
The bomb courier remains at large and is now being hunted down by the police based on the description of the witnesses and the CCTV footage.
The improvised explosive device was inside a bag which was abandoned at the restaurant.
But a waiter thought that the man accidentally left the bag. He then gave it back to the man who was already leaving the place, said police investigators.
The bag containing the bomb was just abandoned then near the compressor of the aircon outside the restaurant where it exploded a few minutes later.
The explosion would have killed if it exploded inside the restaurant, police said.
Rasco said he already formed a special investigating team to expedite the probe.
“I have already directed my men to tighten security measures in Isulan as well as in nearby provinces,” said Rasco.
He said they are also checking with other business establishment owners if they have been receiving extortion demands from the same group or other crime groups.
The injured victims were identified as Randy Tranquillero, Guiamadel Nurhana, Datu Joven Guiamadel, Tristan Casipe Dan Laguerder, Karl Denver Laguerder, Bai Amina Japitana, 8 years old, Watchel dela Cerna, Salyka Falcoagpet, Montasser Masunlog, Nasser Montasser, Malidas Bai ali Mindal, Malidas Mindatu Mindal, Che-Che Malidas, John Mark Sumandal, Johnny Garcia Jenny Pabagaman.
Isulan Mayor Maritess Pallasigue said the local government will provide assistance for the hospitalization of the victims.
She ordered the police to expedite the investigation and hale the perpetrators to justice.
Police had placed the entire locality under heightened alert following the recent bomb attack.
“We also advise the public to be extra vigilant and be mindful of unattended belongings,” said Rasco.
At least four people and 50 others were injured in the spate of bomb attacks that rocked this capital town on August 28 and September 2 last year.
Authorities blamed the ISIS-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters as behind the previous attacks.